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FSANZ rejects claims that coloured pregnancy warning would add ‘unreasonable cost’ to alcohol industry

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has revised the wording of a pregnancy warning label on packaged alcoholic beverages but is insisting on red lettering, despite claims that this would place an unreasonable cost burden on industry.

The pictogram of a pregnant woman holding a glass with a line through her silhouette, used by the industry voluntarily, is to be updated with a mandatory message that ‘alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby’.

Ministers responsible for food regulation requested a review of the label amendment in April, asking FSANZ to consider the colour requirements and wording.

And while the wording has been changed from HEALTH WARNING to PREGNANCY WARNING and the transition period for implementation of the mandatory label extended from two to three years, the regulator wouldn’t budge on coloured lettering.

Revised warning label

Alcohol Beverages Australia said the colouring will place a major cost on the industry.

“Mandating colours, instead of the existing contrast requirements established under the Food Code, would impose the biggest cost on consumers, without any scientific basis, for no measurable benefit,” said Andrew Wilsmore, chief executive of Alcohol Beverages Australia.

“This would cost consumers an extra $400 million, with ongoing high costs due to the more expensive label printing costs. At our industry’s average yearly earnings, this regulatory burden would be the equivalent of close to 6,500 jobs that could otherwise have been created.”

Wilsmore said that mandating warnings will ensure that every bottle of wine, beer and spirits carries an important message, and is supported by industry, but is concerned that the Forum’s submissions have been ignored.

“What should have been a simple exercise was made infinitely more complicated when bureaucrats at FRSC (Food Regulation Standing Committee) and FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) continued to put forward a proposed design that was not in keeping with the clear direction given to them by Governments,” he said.

The Forum has 60 days to consider FSANZ’s review report and decide whether to accept, amend or reject the amendment to the Code.

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